Have you ever heard the saying, "a tiger can't change it's stripes?" It's true! A tiger can NOT change it's stripes. A tiger's stripes are just like how we have finger prints. They are unique to the tiger, and actually are in the fur and the skin.
Forbes magazine wrote an incredible article titled, "Can a Tiger Change It's Stripes?" It states, "We assume that people are bound by their “stripes,” forgetting that people have a choice in how they behave." I LOVE the second part of that statement. "forgetting that people HAVE A CHOICE in how they behave." The article was written in relation to businesses, but mine is more personal. So let's move on to the point.
This is an incredibly vulnerable story for me to write. It's my story that God wrote for me, even though, I've done nothing to deserve it.
Grace is defined as the freely given, unmerited favor of God; the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
I've believed for a long time now, that God allows us to go through things, so that one day, we can help others with our testimony. So that's why I'm sharing mine with you today.
My Pastor at King's Temple in Shreveport, LA, preached one of the best sermons I've ever heard yesterday titled, God Has a Plan. He told the story of how Lot's daughters, after the destruction of Sodom, decided to get him drunk and lay with him so they could have sons. He was pointing out how dysfunctional a family in the Bible was, but how God had a plan. The Moabites were born from this crazy act of incest. Deuteronomy 2:9, God tells Moses for them not to "contend with them in battle". God had a plan. Later, we learn of Ruth. Her husband dies, and she remarries Boaz. They have Obed, who is the father of Jesse, who is the father of David. We now have the lineage that will lead us to the birth of Jesus. God had a plan.
I too was born into a dysfunctional family. I'm the child of 2 drug addicted parents that couldn't/wouldn't take care of me. I was eventually adopted by family where I would learn the Truth.
I remember things from when I was a kid living with both parents, then each parent after they divorced. I remember my mom being abused by boyfriends, I remember my dad putting me in very unsafe situations. I remember more than any kid should ever have to go through. We were poor, so poor. We stole, we cheated people, we lied to people and so much more. This was all before I turned 8 years old!
I won't go into any more details, because this isn't a story I want pity from, this is a story of Grace and changing my stripes, remember?
That Truth I mentioned earlier. That's what saved me. I was filled with the Holy Ghost at 8 years old, and so began my relationship with Jesus. Over the years I would have more test, more trials. I would stray, I would question what God's purpose for me was. But every time I was reminded of what I had been saved from in this physical world.
Years later, I had a conversation with someone that would soon become one of my best friends. She had gone through very similar circumstances. You wouldn't know by looking at either one of us what we had gone through. We began to talk about how we fought so hard to pull ourselves out of those lives. We worked hard, we surrounded ourselves with Godly people, but most importantly, we didn't play the victim. We played the CONQUEROR. Philippians 4:13 in the NKJV says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." We didn't do any of this on our own though, wee had the strength of Christ.
According to an article post in NCBI, "Each family and each family member is uniquely affected by the individual using substances including but not limited to having unmet developmental needs, impaired attachment, economic hardship, legal problems, emotional distress, and sometimes violence being perpetrated against him or her. For children there is also an increased risk of developing an SUD themselves."
Statistics say, I should be a statistic, but God had other plans. I didn't change my stripes, but I did change the behavior that my stripes said I should have. My stripes say I should be a drug addict, I should be living on the streets, I shouldn't have a family and mostly likely, I should be dead by now. But, because of God's grace, I'm now married to a Preacher. I've been involved with ministry for most of my adult life. My husband has a wonderful job and I own a small business, so we are able to provide for our family. I have 3 wonderful children that I've been able to stay home with and raise. My husband's family is HUGE, so God blessed me with a loving family that accepts me as one of their own.
I still struggle. Life isn't perfect, but we weren't promised a perfect life. When I have days of doubt and despair, I look to the Comforter. The one who provides all of my needs, and I'm strengthened once again. Be encouraged. You may not be able to "change your stripes", but you can absolutely change your behavior associated with those stripes. With God's help, you CAN pull yourself out of what you are in. Some of my favorite verses to reflect on are these:
1. Job 5:11 The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
2. Psalm 27:13-14 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
3. Isaiah 41:10 Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
4. John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
5. Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.
6. Romans 8:37-38 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
7. Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
8. 2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
9. Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.
10. Hebrews 13:5 I will never leave you or forsake you.